Several years ago, when Charles was contributing to alt.music.cheap-trick regularly, I’d read too, though I rarely posted. We had gone to Trickfest 3 together, and it was fun to read the group actually having met several of the participants.
A recurring thread topic was “In the Playa,” in which people would share what they were listening to. People would list what was ostensibly loaded into their CD “playa”s.
(This was back when such an antiquated device was the primary means for listening to prerecorded music.)
Well naturally, nobody’s going to own up to Like a Virgin and REO Speedwagon’s Greatest Hits gracing their “playa”s. So the In the Playa thread invariably would become a pathetic display of a bunch of middle-aged goofballs trying to out-cool each other. (I’d occasionally see the same kind of thing on alt.culture.us.1980s.)
Typically, for five or six slots in a home or car CD changer, someone on the Cheap Trick group would list:
- One or two Cheap Trick albums; perhaps a bootleg.
- One or two artists you’d heard of with impeccable hipness credentials: Lou Reed, The Clash, and the like. Again, perhaps a bootleg.
- One to three of just the silliest-sounding, oddball, weird shit you ever read in your life.
An entry in the category described by the third bullet would be an artist nobody ever heard of playing a hall nobody ever heard of. Sometimes the bootleg version of the show would be given. Once in a while the poster would take apparent pity on the poor unwashed bastards who had never heard of his ultra-trendy favorite band and give you some help, like telling you it was the new project of <insert name here>, or that they were working with the same producer as <insert band name here>, and then that would be someone you never heard of either. It’s two tiers of cool then, see.
You poor, pitiful, pathetic, banal consumer of No Doubt and Celine Dion and what-not.
Now I will allow the slight chance that no one ever reported anything that wasn’t actually “in the playa,” and that I just really was that uncool for having never heard of any of it. But that didn’t keep Charles and me from having a little fun with the idea in the ’80s group three years ago. We shared a little back-and-forth on the Green Apple Splatters, which was the name Charles came up with for this sort of hyper-obscure-and-possibly-fictional artist. We talked about specific song titles, named band members, discussed venues, and so forth. The exchange went unchallenged, thereby making it “only” one of 50,000 private jokes between us instead of one of the funniest things that ever happened to me on Usenet.
So you want to know how uncool I am? Here’s what I did yesterday on iTunes. I bought “Heart Like a Wheel” (1990) and “Tell Me When” (1995) by The Human League. These are songs I’ve always liked, but which postdate my best-of CD. I’m absolutely loving them. I may have to chip away at The Human League’s discography until I get it all.
Yes, dear readers, my greatest current musical affection is for a 30-year-old British synthpop band. I always loved the radical difference between the ultra-slick synth sound and the soulful vocals—a difference that seemed as if it should have produced a dissonant mess, but that instead worked marvelously.
And aren’t they all gorgeous, even still?
That’s what’s in my “playa.”